As a person who earns a living as an independent college counselor, you will not be surprised to know that working with somebody like me can be a solid investment in your family’s future; in this blog, I will explain why. I don’t intend for this to be an extended advert for Ivy Central; rather, I hope to give some pointers on what anybody contemplating employing a private counselor should consider.
What is college counseling, and what do they do?
Over the last few years, the number of students, both domestic and international, applying to colleges in the US and UK has grown, resulting in a surge in demand for places at the top colleges and universities. The impact of this demand is that it now takes a stronger application profile for students to win an acceptance, and that is where the independent college counselor comes in.
College counselors can come in many different forms, and what different companies offer will vary from one to another. A simple description would be that an independent college counselor works with students and parents to help them make informed decisions on the colleges the student will apply to. They will guide them through the different requirements and steps in making those applications. The nature of this work does not differ substantively from what a competent school-based college counselor will do, but while a school-based counselor could well be doing this for a hundred or more students, most independent private counselors will perhaps be working with a few tens of students. Nearly all private counselors will work with students in Grades 11 and 12; some will start supporting students from as early as Grade 7 or 8, using that additional time to help them guide them to create an application profile.
Many independent counselors will offer additional services, including career guidance, to help students make informed decisions about the direction they want their studies to take. This work can be very beneficial in motivating young people to achieve better grades in school and develop a more mature outlook on their future. Other services offered by private counseling companies might include SAT/ACT preparation, guided tours to visit different college campuses and support to choose extracurricular activities. Most will offer some support with application essays, but this can vary from helping to brainstorm ideas to a detailed review and polishing of the essays written by applicants. An ethical private counseling company would not write essays on behalf of any student.
While on the topic of ethical practice, the world of private college counseling was rocked in 2019 when clients of a California-based college counseling company were found to have paid money to bribe college officials and inflate test results to secure admission to elite colleges and universities. The became known as ‘The Varsity Blues Scandal.’ In truth, no professional counselor is in a position to promise acceptance by any college or university. A good counselor will advise on how to improve the chances of acceptance, but there is no shortcut to college acceptance.
Companies may range from individuals working from home to large companies employing many people in different roles. They may be based in the United States, United Kingdom, or in any country in the world.
Advantages of working with a private counselor
Choosing to work with a private counselor brings with it many benefits. I have already mentioned that a private counselor will typically work with only a handful of students applying in any one year, but this is often not the case with a school-based counselor. By only working with a limited number of clients, a private counselor can provide more individual service; this can be particularly useful during application season as they can dedicate more time to each student’s application. Another advantage of working with a private counselor is that they often work with their clients well before they start the detailed work of choosing colleges and writing essays. The additional time means they can get to know the student as an individual, understanding what they want from their college experience, and so are better placed to guide them towards appropriate colleges, advise on extracurricular activities, identify appropriate summer programs that will enhance an application and support with essay writing. This detailed knowledge can be particularly helpful if the student is applying to a college or for a major that is less frequently applied to.
Many families feel overwhelmed by the process of applying to college; there are multiple hoops to jump through and numerous decisions to be made. The private counselor will have worked with students from a wide range of backgrounds and interests; they will likely have experience with what different colleges are looking for and can apply that knowledge to the application process. Many families say that working with a counselor helps lift some of the stress they feel; not only does the counselor help keep track of progress, but they often act as a sounding board and reassurer for parents.
Is a private college counselor right for your family?
You may be surprised to read that my answer to that question is ‘maybe.’ There is no shortage of information and guidance on the process of applying to college, but it takes time and effort to find good quality material amongst a great deal of vague and outright wrong information available on the internet. My personal experience is that many families benefit in the way a private counselor can remove some of the stress and time it takes to do it yourself. If you or your son or daughter are aspiring to the top 100 colleges, then an experienced college counselor can help lift a mediocre application up a level, which could make the difference between rejection and acceptance.